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General Stanley A. McChrystal, USA (born August 14, 1954) is the current Commander, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A). He previously served as Director, Joint Staff from August 2008 to June 2009 and as Commander, Joint Special Operations Command from 2003 to 2008, where he was credited with the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, but also criticized for his role in the cover-up of the Pat Tillman friendly fire incident. and his actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. He assumed his current assignment on June 15, 2009. His father was Major General Herbert McChrystal. He was the fourth child in a family of five boys and a girl, all of whom would serve or marry into the military. His older brother, retired Colonel Scott McChrystal, was an Army Chaplain, and is the endorsing agent for the Assemblies of God. McChrystal has a wife and grown son.

Early career

McChrystal graduated from the United States Military Academymarker at West Point, New Yorkmarker in 1976 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the United States Army. His initial assignment was to C Company, 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, serving as weapons platoon leader from November 1976 to February 1978, as rifle platoon leader from February 1978 to July 1978, and as executive officer from July 1978 to November 1978.

In November 1978, McChrystal enrolled as a student in the Special Forces Officer Course at the Special Forces School at Fort Bragg, North Carolinamarker. Upon completing the course in April 1979, he remained at Fort Bragg as commander of Detachment A, A Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group until June 1980, when he attended the Infantry Officer Advanced Course at the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgiamarker, until February 1981.

In February 1981, McChrystal moved to South Koreamarker as intelligence and operations officer (S-2/S-3) for the United Nations Command Support Group—Joint Security Areamarker. He reported to Fort Stewart, Georgiamarker, in March 1982 to serve as training officer in the Directorate of Plans and Training, A Company, Headquarters Command. He moved to 3rd Battalion, 19th Infantry, 24th Infantry Division , in November 1982, where he commanded A Company before becoming battalion operations officer (S-3) in September 1984.

McChrystal moved to 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, as battalion liaison officer in September 1985, became commander of A Company in January 1986, served again as battalion liaison officer in May 1987, and finally became battalion operations officer (S-3) in April 1988, before reporting to the Naval War Collegemarker in Newport, Rhode Islandmarker, as a student in the Command and Staff Course in June 1989. After completing the course in June 1990, he was assigned as Army Special Operations action officer, J-3, Joint Special Operations Command until April 1993, in which capacity he deployed to Saudi Arabiamarker for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

From April 1993 to November 1994, McChrystal commanded the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82d Airborne Division; then commanded the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, from November 1994 to June 1996. After a year as a senior service college fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard Universitymarker, he moved up to command the entire 75th Ranger Regiment from June 1997 to August 1999, then spent another year as a military fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

General officer

Promoted to brigadier general on January 1, 2001, he served as assistant division commander (operations) of the 82d Airborne Division from June 2000 to June 2001, including duty as Commander, Coalition/Joint Task Force Kuwait in Camp Dohamarker, Kuwaitmarker. From June 2001 to July 2002 he was chief of staff of XVIII Airborne Corps, including duty as chief of staff of Combined Joint Task Force 180, the headquarters formation contributed by XVIII Airborne Corps to direct all Operation Enduring Freedom operations in Afghanistanmarker.

At the beginning of the Iraq War in March 2003, he was serving in the Pentagonmarker as a member of the Joint Staff, where he had been vice director of operations, J-3, since July 2002. McChrystal was selected to deliver nationally televised Pentagon briefings on U.S. military operations in Iraq, including one in April 2003 shortly after the fall of Baghdadmarker in which he announced, "I would anticipate that the major combat engagements are over."

Commander, Joint Special Operations Command

He commanded the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) for five years, serving first as Commanding General, Joint Special Operations Command, from September 2003 to February 2006, and then as Commander, Joint Special Operations Command/Commander, Joint Special Operations Command Forward, from February 2006 to August 2008. Nominally assigned to Fort Bragg, North Carolinamarker, he spent most of his time in Afghanistan, at U.S. Central Command's forward headquarters in Qatarmarker, and in Iraq. Early successes included the capture by JSOC forces of Saddam Hussein in December 2003. He was promoted to lieutenant general on February 16, 2006.

As head of what Newsweek termed "the most secretive force in the U.S. military," McChrystal maintained a very low profile until June 2006, when his forces were responsible for the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq. After McChrystal's team successfully located Zarqawi and called in the airstrike that killed him, McChrystal accompanied his men to the bombed-out hut to personally identify the body.

McChrystal's Zarqawi unit, Task Force 6-26, became well-known for its interrogation methods, particularly at Camp Nama, where it was accused of abusing detainees. After the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal became public in April 2004, 34 members of the task force were disciplined.

McChrystal was also criticized for his role in the aftermath of the 2004 death by friendly fire of Ranger and former professional football player Pat Tillman. Within a day of Tillman's death, McChrystal was notified that Tillman was a victim of fratricide. Shortly thereafter, McChrystal was put in charge of paperwork to award Tillman a posthumous Silver Star for valor. On April 28, 2004, six days after Tillman's death, McChrystal approved a final draft of the Silver Star recommendation and submitted it to the acting Secretary of the Army, even though the medal recommendation deliberately omitted any mention of friendly fire, included the phrase "in the line of devastating enemy fire," and was accompanied by fabricated witness statements. On April 29, McChrystal sent an urgent memo warning White House speechwriters not to quote the medal recommendation in any statements they wrote for President Bush because it "might cause public embarrassment if the circumstances of Corporal Tillman's death become public." McChrystal was one of eight officers recommended for discipline by a subsequent Pentagon investigation but the Army declined to take action against him.

According to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, beginning in late spring 2007 JSOC and U.S. intelligence agencies launched a new series of highly effective covert operations that coincided with the Iraq War troop surge of 2007. Woodward reported that McChrystal employed "collaborative warfare" to integrate a range of tools from signal intercepts to human intelligence to find, target, and kill insurgents.

Director, Joint Staff

McChrystal was considered a candidate to succeed General Bryan D. Brown as commander of U.S. Special Operations Command in 2007, and to succeed General David H. Petraeus as commanding general of Multi-National Force - Iraq or Admiral William J. Fallon as commander of U.S. Central Command in 2008, all four-star positions. Instead, McChrystal was nominated by President Bush to succeed Lieutenant General Walter L. Sharp as director of the Joint Staff in February 2008, another three-star position.

Normally a routine process, McChrystal's Senate confirmation was stalled by members of the Senate Armed Services Committee who sought more information about the alleged mistreatment of detainees by Special Operations troops under McChrystal's command in Iraq and Afghanistan. After meeting with McChrystal in private, the Senate Armed Services Committee confirmed his reappointment as lieutenant general in May 2008 and he became director of the Joint Staff in August 2008.

Commander of Afghanistan Forces

With his June 10, 2009 Senate approval to take command in Afghanistan, McChrystal was promoted to General. Shortly after McChrystal assumed command of NATO operations, Operation Khanjar commenced, marking the largest offensive operation and the beginning of the deadliest combat month for NATO forces since 2001.

General McChrystal submitted a 66 page report to Defense Secretary Robert Gates calling for more troops in Afghanistanmarker, which became public on September 20, 2009. McChrystal warned that the war in Afghanistan may be lost if more troops are not sent, but the report ends on a note of cautious optimism: “While the situation is serious, success is still achievable.”

In 2009 General McChrystal requested between 30,000 and 40,000 more troops in Afghanistanmarker.


Daniel Ellsberg, the former US military Analyst who released the Pentagon Papers, has posited that McChrystal's "drones" and "death squads" in Afghanistan have simply contributed to the growth of an ultimately unassailable anti-US resistance, and that even "hundreds of thousands" of troops will not change that fact, as in the Vietnam war.

Degrees, Medals and Awards

McChrystal holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Military Academymarker, a Master of Arts degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the United States Naval War Collegemarker, and a Master of Science degree in International Relations from Salve Regina Universitymarker.

Defense Distinguished Service Medal
Defense Superior Service Medal (with one Oak Leaf Clusters)
Legion of Merit (with two Oak Leaf Clusters)
Bronze Star
Defense Meritorious Service Medal
Meritorious Service Medal (with three Oak Leaf Clusters)
Army Commendation Medal
Army Achievement Medal
Expert Infantryman Badge
Parachutist Badge
Special Forces Tab
Ranger Tab
Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge

Dates of rank

  • 2LT - June 2, 1976
  • 1LT - June 2, 1978
  • CPT - August 1, 1980
  • MAJ - July 1, 1987
  • LTC - September 1, 1992
  • COL - September 1, 1996
  • BG - January 1, 2001
  • MG - May 1, 2004
  • LTG - February 16, 2006
  • GEN - June 15, 2009


  1. Ellsberg: From Vietnam to Afghanistan
  2. "July deadliest month for NATO in Afghanistan". San Francisco Chronicle, 16 July 2009.
  3. Washington Post coverage of General McChrystal's 66 page report
  4. New York Times coverage of McChrystal report
  5. McChrystal request for additional troops in Afghanistan

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